Classroom Reflections

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As I write this post and try to put my thoughts into words, I'm still trying to determine the focus of my Action Plan this year. Just like last year, I have a few things that just aren't quite right in my teaching practice but I can't just yet put a finger on what they are. The highlight of being part of the Cohort 21 community is having the opportunity (and dedicated time) to have conversations with other colleagues in a variety of disciplines to flush out exactly what it is that needs to be addressed.

In the mean time, I have continued to grapple with some of the work I did last year. My inspiration for last year's action plan was getting students away from the focus of unit assessment marks and more on their learning throughout the unit and showcasing what they know.

Having said that, if that is what I value as a teacher, what opportunities am I providing for students to showcase what they know? How am I being intentional in valuing that process in my daily lessons? With that in mind, here are two small steps I've taken this year so far in aiding students in valuing the learning process.

1. At the end of unit conversations in grade 9, I ask students if there is anything else that they learned in the process that I didn't ask them about in the conversation. This is similar to a suggestion I had last year about including this at the end of a test.

2. When returning the first unit test in my grade 11 class, all students were provided with the following handout. This helped them relate the test question to the learning process by having them link it back to the lesson. It also allowed them to personalize their next steps by identifying where to find extra practice questions.

I would end this post by noting that I was intentional in providing the above handout to each student in the class. I followed up with a brief discussion about the importance of everyone filling out the chart regardless of their mark. All too often, students who are pleased with the overall result may simply file away the test and don't look at it in detail until the final exam. My hope is that given them a guideline for purposeful corrections will allow them to see value in the process.

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Having just completed another unit in Calculus, I thought it would be appropriate to update the current step in my action plan.

Continuing on the journey to have student self-reflect on their learning, I decided to do 3 new things in this unit.

First step:
Even though we continue to generate "I can... " statements as a class at the end of each unit, I decided in this unit, to collate the complete list before the assessment. Students were given a copy of the complete list as part of their review booklet. I smiled when one student exclaimed with excitement "Oh, she wrote them out for us in the unit!" - I'm taking this as a success in my books!

Bitmoji ImageSecond step:
At the end of the review period, I distributed the same list of success criteria but added a rating scale to each. Students were then asked to assess themselves on their current knowledge of the skills where 1 was "I have no idea what this is about." and 10 was "I'm ready to show my knowledge". They then handed in their reflection and had a plan to guide their studying. Here is an example of one student's reflection.


I had asked students to rate themselves earlier in the course based on their ability to solve a particular question. This student would often rate themselves 1 or 2 on these previous ratings. It caught my attention that when the process was changed to rate on skills rather than specific questions, this student's rated themselves above 5 in most criteria. To me, that was note-worthy.

Third step:
This last step was generated after reading a comment on my last blog post from @mwilcox. So following the pre-assessment reflection, I then asked students to self-reflect once more on this unit content once they had finished writing the unit test. Along with rating themselves using the same success criteria as the "I can..." list, I added one last question asking students for input on any area/skill/concept that they felt they didn't have a chance to showcase on the test. A copy of the survey can be found here.

The results of the electronic survey were a great highlight of student knowledge in each skill. The responses to the criteria reflections varied and here are some examples:

The most valuable input were the answers to the last question.

My next steps:
Though the pre-assessment and post-assessment were done using different mediums (one on paper and one electronically), by intentionally not made the electronic survey anonymous, I have the opportunity to compare each student's ratings. I can envision having conferences with each student to talk about their progress in the unit and helping the student create next steps in their learning.

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My focus this year has been around student self-reflection to direct their personalized learning in my classes. My goal is to have students move away from a focus solely on the final answer to assess what they know but more on the process of solving a mathematical question.

At the last F2F session, I was able to gain some clarity on my action plan and felt I was able to more clearly articulate what was the root of my concern in my classroom. Walking away from that day, my driving question remains "HMW have students reflect on their learning in a lesson to help personalized their next steps?".

My hope is to take students from confusion about what to do or what knowledge to choose:
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to confidence in their ability:
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This year, I have ended lessons with students generating a "I can ..." list to identify the skills covered in the lesson. Essentially, students were identifying the success criteria of the lesson. This was a good first step, in my mind, but my students just saw it more as a thing that we did and not as part of the learning cycle. My vision was that students would use these statements as self check-ins to assess what they knew in the unit and what they still needed to master.

To help with this shift, I have started asking students to write out all the "I can..." statements from the unit on a separate sheet of paper and hand it in on test day. Here is an example of one student's work:

What stood out to me were the * and check marks beside some of the statements. This student was already self-reflecting and identifying what they knew and what they still had to work on. Unfortunately, this was the only one like this. All the other submissions were just a list of statements. But I was not deterred, I believe I am on the right track.

We are now into the third unit of the course and though we continue to end lessons with "I can ..." statements, I did not ask students to write them out on a separate sheet to submit. However, an interesting thing happened in our review class. As students were working away, I overheard a conversation about a student sharing her "checklist" for the unit that she created with her friends. Her peers wanted a copy of this magical checklist and I had to chuckle. I did have to mention to that group that this wasn't a new concept and they had done this in previous units but I had called it an "I can..." list. It was great to see the students make the realization of the value of this list.
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Things that I am considering as next steps:
- creating the "I can..." list and having students self-assess their ability pre-test and then again post-test with some sort of reflection
- have students use their Unit 1 and Unit 2 "I can..." lists and their tests to reflect and set up next steps to further improve their knowledge before the final exam.
- connect these "I can..." statements to the work we continue to do at the white boards.

And so the journey continues...